AMD's quad-core CPU to consume dual-core power

Chicago (IL) - If AMD has its way, then Intel's performance-per-watt leadership claim may be short lived: The first quad-core Opterons, due in 2007 will consume the same power as today's dual-core processors, while AMD expects Intel to increase the power envelope when adding more cores.

Intel will be dominating the headlines in tech publications early next week with the debut of a new architecture ("Core") that is believed to not only increase the firm's competitiveness with AMD's processors but also bring a visible advantage in performance and power consumption.

And while we are patiently waiting for Intel's designated savior that will be unveiled in its first flavor as Xeon 5100 volume server and workstation processor, AMD isn't just watching the spectacle: There is subtle background noise in which the company reminds journalists and analysts that it will be reacting to the Xeon 5100, formerly code-named "Woodcrest" in the coming weeks and months.

That reaction will mainly consist of the launch of socket F for the Opteron processor, which - according to sources - will happen on 1 August. The new socket will bring not only DDR2 support as well as a higher-clocked processor, according to John Freuhe, worldwide market development manager, servers and workstations for AMD, but also some decrease in power consumption; Socket F Opterons, however, won't be able to match the thermal design power of desktop AM2 processors (65 watts).

Considering the fact that Opterons integrate the memory controller and Core does not, Freuhe expects that an Opteron-based system may consume "10 to 20% less" than a comparable Woodcrest server.

The power game could head into another interesting phase with the introduction of four cores in one processor. Freuhe said that AMD's quad-core processors will be "native quad-cores" that scale from a dual-core architecture without the need of additional power. "Scalability is really one of our strong fields. We will introduce quad-core processors in 2007 and they will use the same power envelope as today's dual-core processors, while we believe that Intel will have to increase the thermal design power of Core," he said.

Freuhe also mentioned that AMD does not see a slowdown in Opteron shipments and actually sees its pace accelerating. "In the U.S., we are at about 25% overall market share with the Opteron. In the 4-way space we are at more than 48%. Last year, we have doubled the number of our customer platforms and we will be able to double them this year again," he said.

Intel spokespeople declined to comment on Freuhe's assumption that "Core" will use more power when more cores are added, but disagreed when we asked about their opinion on AMD's general power consumption statements.

"Intel has both performance and performance per watt leadership with the Intel Core Microarchitecture. Woodcrest is here now," said Intel spokesman George Alfs. "It is interesting that our competition has stopped talking about performance and advanced capabilities and is instead handing out power measurement devices, which one analyst used to show a Woodcrest system to be superior in power savings than their own platform." Alfs referred to a report published by Thomas Weisel partners today, which claims that Woodcrest's power consumption "is lower that expected" and "lower than similarly configured Opteron systems" while offering "superior performance" when compared to AMD's Opteron.